Next Step, Innovate the Open Young Minds

Our last Let’s Grow column focused on an outgrowth of our efforts with some sharp peers, the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp.

One objective of the Bootcamp is to build a community of innovators. The more we socialize these methods and tools, the larger the social and business problems can be met with creativity, empathy, and the widest range of possible solutions.

Thus far, we have held mini bootcamps with companies, university and college students, and non-profits. The number of innovators is growing; however, the impact—thus far—is limited to product development and a little bit of city planning, thanks to our peers at the Memphis Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team.

No offense, but it is an almost insurmountable challenge to open the minds of career-track, socially-conditioned professionals to see the city through the lens of pure possibility. To remedy this business-centric application of innovation, we are making strides to take the Bootcamp to high schools, both public and private.

If we can teach Design Thinking to the emerging generation it will achieve many benefits, including: stopping the brain drain from the region, mixing multi-generational teams of volunteers working together to make the region a healthier and more vibrant community, seeing the region with eyes of potential, stimulating a culture renaissance, and, most important, teaching creativity and critical thinking to the generation who will inherit Memphis.

The impact of design thinking in education has two overarching, positive benefits: First, it insists upon a multi-disciplinary approach—design thinking demonstrates that bringing together seemingly disparate perspectives can be key to discovering effective solutions. Therefore, this approach shows students that the most complex problems are best solved using an interdisciplinary approach.

Second, the power of collaborating with others: design thinking emphasizes that through collaboration (rather than cut-throat competition) is critical to the learning and problem solving process—a mindset that will be valuable to their scholarly, professional, and personal lives.

But the real benefit is teaching the power of empathy with others. Design thinking teaches students that the best solutions are empathy-driven and created for real people with real problems. By understanding that an answer to a problem is only as good as the user finds it to be, students understand that solutions that really connect to others are more valuable than solely empirical or logic-based problem solving methodologies taught today.

The world is what we make it. Teaching students empathy, collaboration, and methods for being cunningly creative will empower the city for generations to come and inspire all of us to make it a better place instead of merely accepting the status quo as is.

Innovation, as a discipline, tends to be special assignment work that is reserved for the creative hotshots, iconoclasts, those in hot spots like Palo Alto, or on an esteemed university campus, such as M.I.T. Yet, the lack of a real practice of innovation cripples businesses and communities. The dirty secret is that anyone can do it with a little training.

Another secret is that innovation work and its methods are not competitive; rather, as a model, innovation holds the very keys to a collaborative, sustainable future for companies, non-profits, cities, and individuals. You just have to do it. Not talk about it, read about it, or speculate, but do. Action wins.

To this end, several peers in the community who are passionate about Innovation and its positive impact on business and the social sector started meeting to share their passion. The natural outgrowth was the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp. Organizations on the founding team included Merck, FedEx, University of Memphis, and the Southern Growth Studio.

The Design Thinking methods were adapted from Stanford’s D. School. MIB is a three-day, intensive, hands-on introduction to the latest concepts in design thinking and innovation. We have held two sessions, founded an advisory board, and are building up an infrastructure of innovators who can get behind projects that make the region a better place. MIB is a three-day, intensive, hands-on introduction to the latest concepts in design thinking and innovation.

Mission of MIB

Create a network of innovators who produce human-centered solutions that positively transform lives, communities, and businesses.


MIB – A 3 day hands-on, real-world, exciting, transformative immersion experience that imparts application-ready design thinking capability.

MIB Connect – MIB connects local businesses, organizations and governments with local and global resources, to establish a network of robust Design Thinking programs.

MIB Engage – MIB staff engages with a select group of local organizations to impact the community and help establish Design Thinking capability.

Think of it as a Memphis Innovation Revolution or innovation for the rest of us.